In quick reversal, Senate opts not to depose witnesses after all in Trump trial

Leaders, lawyers agree to put Jaime Herrera Beutler's statement on Trump-McCarthy call in record

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives to the Senate for the fifth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial Saturday. Trump is charged with “incitement of insurrection” after his supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn November’s election result.  (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives to the Senate for the fifth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial Saturday. Trump is charged with “incitement of insurrection” after his supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn November’s election result. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted February 13, 2021 at 1:12pm

Barely two hours after voting 55-45 to allow witnesses to be subpoenaed or deposed in former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, the Senate and the prosecution and the defense decided they didn’t want to spend time on that after all.

The Senate’s initial vote to allow witnesses had come in response to a request from the House impeachment managers to depose Washington GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.

[Senate votes to open Trump trial to allow witness depositions]

Instead of deposing Herrera Beutler — which the defense had warned would lead them to seek to depose potentially hundreds of witnesses — the managers and Trump’s lawyers agreed to allow her statement of interest to the case to be entered into the record.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer then offered unanimous consent to effectively override the Senate’s previous vote to allow subpoenas and depositions of witnesses.

With no objections to the agreement, the trial then moved into up to four hours of closing arguments, setting the Senate up for a final vote later Saturday in which Trump is expected to be acquitted of the incitement of insurrection charge.

Herrera Beutler’s statement was about a phone call House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy had with Trump as his supporters raided the Capitol. She said McCarthy relayed the details of the call to her.  

“When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol,” Herrera Beutler said. “McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’”

Moments before the Senate returned from the long break, defense attorney Michael van der Veen made his way to Sen. Susan Collins’ seat on the aisle and engaged in an animated conversation with the Maine Republican, where they both emphasized points with their hands.

The exchange mellowed and concluded with Collins nodding affirmatively and van der Veen putting his hand over his heart and also nodding.

When Raskin read the part of Hererra Beutler’s statement that said she had told local media and her constituents about the phone call, Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota gestured and nodded from the back row. They did it again, joined by Illinois Sen. Joni Ernst when Raskin said he had no further motions on witnesses.

Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this story.